California is abandoning an ambitious plan that effectively required middle school students to take algebra in the eighth grade.
Even though most other states offer algebra in high school, California moved the course to the eighth grade in 1997, around the time the state tried to improve its educational offerings in a number of subject areas.
But while other states allow students who are ready for advanced mathematics to take algebra in eighth grade - or in some cases, even younger - none but California required it.
Under guidelines and curriculum standards adopted by the state, students who didn't succeed at algebra in the eighth grade simply had to repeat it until they passed.
Two weeks ago, the state's board of education voted to change that, said Tom Adams, head of California's curriculum framework and instructional resources.
Citing studies indicating that not all children were ready for algebra in the eighth grade, the board decided to offer a choice: students could still take algebra in the eighth grade if they were ready, but if not, a new course would be available to them instead.
The new course would be richer than a typical pre-algebra class, Adams said, but not as complex and difficult as algebra itself.
The new course will be available in time for the 2014-2015 school year, Adams said.